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Ask Lyn: Do fireworks hurt our lakes?

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

TWF Posted by: TWF

Dear Lyn,

My family and I love watching fireworks over our lake. It’s a tradition! But last year, I cleaned a bucket’s worth of firework debris out of my yard after a neighbor’s celebration. Now I’m wondering whether fireworks affect water quality. Should we be concerned about our lake?


A Fan of the Fourth

Winona Lake (pictured) is one of many local lakes to host fireworks on or near the 4th of July.

Dear Fan,

Lake Tippecanoe has been my home for many years, and fireworks are one of my favorite traditions too! There’s nothing like watching all that light and color sparkle across the surface of the water. Plus, fireworks are a longstanding national custom, and they’re a beloved part of local culture, especially around our lakes. Lake associations work hard to put on spectacular fireworks displays, and visitors come from all around to enjoy the celebrations. The atmosphere is festive and fun. Everywhere you look, people are smiling. For lots of us, including my family and friends, Fourth of July on the lake is one of the best nights of the year.

So I appreciate your question, Fan, because I know it’s a tough one. 

At TWF, we’re always working to understand how our activities and choices impact the lakes we love–and what we might do differently to protect them. That’s why we’re participating in a national study that looks at how fireworks affect our water quality. The study is focused on perchlorate, a chemical that helps create those colorful explosions. After the explosion, fireworks debris (which contains perchlorate, among other pollutants) falls to the ground and into our water. To help with this study, TWF will submit samples from Lake Tippecanoe before and after our fireworks celebration. Researchers will measure perchlorate levels in ours and other water samples from lakes, rivers, and streams around the country. 

What’s the big deal about perchlorate? Well, for one thing, studies have shown it may have serious implications for human health, including thyroid function. Perchlorate pollution in groundwater and drinking water isn’t just a water quality issue; it’s a public health issue. The information collected in this study could help us learn how to make our celebrations safer for our lakes–and for us.

We’ll keep you posted on the results. 

Meanwhile, if you want to enjoy a spectacular fireworks display over a local lake, we’ve put together a great list (right). Wherever and however you choose to celebrate this Fourth of July, we wish you a meaningful, fun, and safe holiday! 

See you on the lake,